Let’s talk about Ivan Provorov because now, it’s going to get fun. Not that it wasn’t already, not that he didn’t take the jump many expected him to in his sophomore season.
Now, we’ll see what Provorov does in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, where legends are born, and defending champions are (usually) uncrowned. That is the Flyers’ task Wednesday in Pittsburgh.
The Flyers begin their quest to unseat the two-time reigning champs as underdogs, just as Philly likes. Hungry dogs ran faster, blah, blah, blah. The playoffs are a brand new ballgame.
“Everyone has the same opportunity to win the Cup,” Provorov said Saturday.
Lost in the Claude Giroux mania, the Brian Elliott confidence boost and the Flyers clinching, Provorov wrapped up his second NHL season with his 17th goal to spark the blowout win. His 17 goals are a Flyers record for most from a second-year defenseman and also finished tied for the league lead among blueliners, with Tampa’s Victor Hedman, a 2017 Norris Trophy finalist, and Calgary’s Dougie Hamilton.
Yet, it’s a quiet 17. Provorov did so without a power-play goal and even without the flare of his partner Shayne Gostisbehere, who, while not a favorite, has been mentioned among Norris candidates.
Gostisbehere finished fourth among NHL defensemen with 65 points and led the league with seven power-play goals and 33 power-play points. He did so while improving vastly in his own zone, playing a career-high 21:27 per game and winning the Barry Ashbee Trophy (Flyers’ top defenseman) for the second time in three years.
Still, it was Provorov who played the tough, shutdown minutes. Provorov, who turned 21 in January, led the Flyers with 24:09 per game, 2 minutes and 35 seconds more than Sean Couturier (21:35) and 2:42 more than Gostisbehere. Nearly 60 percent of Provorov’s zone starts came on the defensive end and he finished as a plus-17. This isn’t an indictment on Gostisbehere; instead, the Flyers have a top pair that generates creativity in the offensive zone and also holds its own in the D-zone, and the pair will be put to work against the Penguins.
One of the storylines coming into this season was Provorov's progression from Year 1 to 2. Some predicted a Drew Doughty-like leap while others were a little more conservative in their expectations. Doughty, the 2015-16 Norris Trophy winner, registered 59 points in his sophomore season, up from 27 in his rookie year. Provorov netted 30 points in his first NHL season and while he didn't have a Doughty-esque leap, he saw an 11-point uptick.
What did happen, though, was Provorov took an enormous leap. His production increased, trust from his coaches expanded and it all happened with limited hiccups. He showcased the ability to take over games. Remember the Arizona game in October, when he single-handedly led the Flyers' charge from down 3-0 to force overtime with three third-period assists? There were others too. This season went as well as you could have asked for, and now we get to see Provorov with the stakes elevated.
This is when special players build their legacy, and in Philadelphia, Provorov is special.
On Wednesday, we'll see if the 21-year-old will make a name for himself on the national stage against a team not many are giving the Flyers a chance against.
Grab your popcorn, this should be entertaining.